Do you feel like your child has become a zombie, constantly in front of some device? There’s still time to establish good screen habits this summer and to stop the arguing about screen time.
But why should you bother? Because according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, in general, while watching television, your child is probably not doing any of the following:
- Asking questions
- Solving problems
- Being creative
- Exercising initiative
- Practicing eye-hand coordination
- Scanning (useful in reading)
- Practicing motor skills
- Thinking critically, logically, and analytically
- Practicing communication skills
- Playing interactive games with other children or adults (helpful for developing patience, self-control cooperation, sportsmanship)
So what can we do about it? Decide on the absolute limits and then involve your kids in working out the details within those limits. Here are some points to consider:
- Amount of screen time per day (phones, computers, devices, TV, movies)
- How that time should be used: all at once? 30 minutes at a time?
- How will they keep track of their screen time? (timer, check list?)
- What are the consequences if they don’t track their time, or if they go over their time?
- Do they need to play outside prior to or after being on the screen?
- Are there chores to complete prior to screen time?
Your kids may complain about this process. Expect them to be disappointed. Accept emotions, do not accept disrespect. If they need to cool off before they can be involved in the discussion, allow them as much screen-free time as they need before inviting them back to start the conversation again. When they are ready to take responsibility for their screen use, then the planning can begin.
Be willing to evaluate how the plan is working after a week. Be open to making some changes—maybe their game takes about 45 minutes to play so 30-minute increments don’t really work. Ultimately, decide on limits that you are willing to enforce and enjoy fewer arguments for the rest of the summer.
Image of child in front of TV from Shutterstock.
Too much togetherness is rarely a good thing, so set your kids up for success with realistic expectations for the summer. Follow these steps to build a plan that works for your family to ensure a happy summer—for everyone.
- Provide some structure. Going from scheduled school-time to no schedule can be a real challenge for many children. Without a schedule, they feel no sense of control and will therefore fight—for control over anything. As soon as there is some predictability for the day, the need to control everything seems to decrease. It can be as simple as reviewing when meals will happen, along with quiet time, errands that need to be run, etc.
- Expect that your kids will need a break from each other. Rather than waiting for a fight to break up their together-time, help them to plan when they will spend time apart. At the very least, teach them how to ask for it:
‘I need some time on my own,’ rather than, ‘I hate you! Get out of my face!’
- Help them to figure out sharing. If there is one toy/technology device/basketball hoop, how do they use it together? Kids (4 and up) are great at coming up with solutions to these kind of problems so ask them to help figure it out. Some ideas:
- Odd days one child chooses the game, even days the other chooses the game
- Taking turns
- Scheduling individual time on the device/toy
- Set clear boundaries. Set boundaries for what can and cannot be done, along with when and for how long. Provide limits and consequences ahead of time so that things feel fair.
Image of fighting brothers from Shutterstock.